April 2020 Books Read

Monthly Book Round-Up-5

It was a slow start, but I ended up reading some really great books this month.

I think I found the genres that I’ve gravitated toward during this pandemic, and those include lighthearted literary, memoir, and true crime (because, why not?)

The books I read this month fit into those categories, and they’re some of the best in their genre. There’s even one that is giving Long Bright River a run for its money as my favorite book read this year.

I hope you and your family are staying sane. Maybe by this time next month we’ll be able to venture out again? Just in time for summer reading? Maybe??


Catch and KillCatch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Genre: Nonfiction/True Crime

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ronan Farrow’s involvement in uncovering the Harvey Weinstein case is riveting, fascinating, and at times, stranger than fiction. Farrow is a skilled writer, and this book reads like a suspense novel. Getting an inside look at how the entertainment industry conducts its business was both enlightening and infuriating. Farrow’s narration of the audiobook was a little strange with him attempting the accents of the people he’s portraying (sometimes he’s successful, other times, not so much), but don’t let that deter you from the powerful story he tells.


Jessica SimpsonOpen Book by Jessica Simpson

Genre: Celebrity Memoir

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Wow. I don’t know what exactly I was expecting going into listening to this audiobook, but holy cow was it fantastic. Jessica Simpson has experienced many traumas in her life, and she doesn’t hold back in explaining them. A lot of celebrity memoirs I’ve read have been stilted and boring, two things this book definitely isn’t. It also had a nostalgia factor for me, since I grew up in the age of boy bands and Britney and had always liked Jessica Simpson. Well, now I love her. The audiobook also has 6 songs that are only available in this format, which helped inspire her in her writing. It was an awesome bonus, especially getting to listen and knowing the back story to the lyrics.


What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format: E-book

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This is arguably Liane Moriarty’s most popular book (maybe just slightly behind Big Little Lies), and one that I’ve heard nothing but praise for. The premise is centered around Alice, who wakes up after hitting her head and thinks it is ten years in the past, when she was happy and in love with her new husband. She discovers that a lot has happened within the last ten years, including three kids she has no memory of and a husband she is now in a heated divorce with. It was an enjoyable read, and one that really makes you think. What would myself from ten years ago think of my life now? (In my case, I think I would be pleasantly surprised with how my life has turned out). While I enjoyed reading it, I was also a little cynical, especially when it came to the head trauma explanation (or lack thereof). But it’s easy to see why this has been one of Moriarty’s more praised novels.


Seven HusbandsThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is one of those books that I’ve seen talked about for awhile, and now seemed like the perfect time to pick it up. It’s an enjoyable “candy” read – light without a whole lot of substance. Learning about the fictional history of Evelyn Hugo’s seven husbands was a fun ride, with a big twist along the way. It’s a perfect escapism read for right now.


In Five YearsIn Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I loved this book. The writing was beautiful, and the story went in directions that I was not expecting, which is a hard feat to pull off these days (in my opinion). Our main character Dannie wakes up five years in the future and lives exactly one hour before coming back to the present. It feels like you know where the story is going to go, but Serle takes you down a completely different path that I can’t really talk about without giving anything away. I was just dumbfounded by how it ended, in a completely good way. I’ve been recommending this book to people since I finished it, and I can’t wait to read more of Serle’s work.


The Giver of StarsThe Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I didn’t know what I was going to think of this book, especially after the accusations of plagiarism when it first came out. But I was pleasantly surprised and ended up loving the story of a group of women in the 1930s and their traveling library (delivering books on horseback). Not to mention, I found my new favorite audiobook narrator in Julia Whelan, a phenomenal actress who brought a unique voice to each character (and there were a lot in this Kentucky-set town). I’ve always been hit or miss with Historical Fiction, but this one was a big hit for me.


Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Genre: Memoir

Format: E-book

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This memoir is so heartbreakingly beautiful. Kalanithi mixes prose with philosophy while explaining his short life as a surgeon who finds himself faced with his own cancer. The heavy topics were surprisingly readable and relatable. Kalanithi didn’t get to finish his manuscript before he passed away in 2015. You can feel how rushed the writing is at times, but knowing why makes it forgivable. This is a tearjerker, but it’s also a great insight into life and death and how we perceive time.


Books I DNF’d this month:

The Other Wes Moore – This memoir sounded interesting (discovering someone who has the same name as you is living out a jail sentence for murder), but I couldn’t get into it.

The Other Woman – I picked this up in hopes to do a buddy read with my sister-in-law (hi, Christine!), but I’ve realized that I don’t have the mental stability to read thrillers at the moment. I’ll let my SIL determine if I should read it in the future 🙂

Let me know in the comments what good books you read this month!

April Reads 2020-3

 

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January 2020 Books Read

Monthly Book Round-Up-3

January was a loooong month.

Circumstances being what they were this month, I didn’t get to finish as many books as I was hoping to read (as Goodreads so eloquently reminds me – I’m one book behind pace to my yearly goal). But the ones I did read were fantastic.

I’m adding a new feature to my reviews, and that is the format in which I read the book. I feel that format can make or break whether or not I will like a book. I started The Nickel Boys on audio and was not captivated by it. I happened to see it at the library and decided I would try to read it in print, and I enjoyed it so much better in this format.

I’m also going to briefly mention the books I DNF’d (did not finish) this month. I’m trying to read at a higher quality, so if I’m not enjoying a book, I will not force myself to finish. And that doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t go back to a DNF book, it just wasn’t right for me at this point in time.

Focusing on quality is really working for me, and I implore everyone to do the same. Life is too short to not be reading something you enjoy!


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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Genre: YA

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What a powerful way to start off the new year. I know this book has been around for awhile, and I’m kind of late to the game, but wow. Now I know why this book was so popular when it came out in 2017. It tells the tale of Starr who sees her friend get shot to death by a cop in a traffic stop gone wrong. This book is extremely poignant for the time we’re living in. The audiobook is excellent, one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. Bahni Turpin is an awesome narrator. This truly is a YA novel, however, as it pauses here and there to remind us of that when Starr is hanging out with her friends from school. But overall, this is an important novel that everyone should read.


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Today We Go Home by Kelli Estes

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was the first book I received after joining the Once Upon a Book Club subscription service. You get to open gifts related to the corresponding page numbers along the way, which makes it feel like you are a part of the story. I loved the experience, and the book was great too. Told in two timelines between an Iraq veteran and a soldier in the Civil War, both of whom are women, was a delightful surprise. I haven’t read a historical fiction novel set during the Civil War, and it was a refreshing break from reading a WWII-set novel. And learning that women posing as men to fight in the war was a common occurrence made the story that much more interesting. The present day storyline wasn’t as strong, in my opinion, but it was overall an enjoyable read.


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The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This was my first foray into Colson Whitehead’s work, and I wasn’t disappointed. Based on a true story of a reformatory boys school in 1950s Florida, this novel tackles some heavy topics such as abuse and race, yet it’s told in a way that is readable. The writing is beautiful, but I had to switch from audio to hardcover to truly comprehend the story. The novel interweaves quotes and aspirations from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as it was set during the Civil Rights movement, which really opened my eyes to that era and how it still resonants today. This is a great “makes you think” book.


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Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Genre: Classic / Adventure

Format: Ebook (Serial App)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I did it. I finished my first classic of the year. Yes, it was a children’s novel, and yes, it’s a story that everyone has heard of, but I’m proud that I actually stuck with it and didn’t give up 20 pages in and never return back to it like I do with most classics. That’s a win, in my book. I had decided to read Peter Pan because my daughter had recently been in our community theater’s production of it. I was surprised at how the story of the play followed so closely with the story of the book, that is to say, it’s nothing like the Disney version. I enjoyed reading it overall, but, man, Peter annoyed the ever living crap out of me. Whiny. Arrogant. Narcissistic. I now know why they had to make him more likable for the Disney movie, because he is not likable here. But it’s a fun adventure novel that can be read with your kiddos.


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Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Genre: Historical Fiction / Literary

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I picked this up on a whim from the library. I had heard about it through bookish word of mouth, and I saw that it was short (only 196 pages), so I thought I’d give it a try. The jacket cover proclaimed it as very poetic, which scared me as I am not a poetry fan, but as soon as I dug in I couldn’t put it down. It’s not told in a conventional way; it goes back in forth in time from the early 2000s to the 1970s and is told from multiple characters’ perspectives. It might be confusing to some, but I thought it helped elevate the story. I love a good book about relationships, and that’s ultimately what this story is. It’s a great, super-quick read.


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Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark

Genre: Memoir

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t listen to Kilgariff and Hardstark’s popular My Favorite Murder podcast, but I had heard that you don’t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy this book. While the authors mention the show and the topic of true crime occasionally, this was more like a book of essays about the women’s lives growing up. They are both gifted writers, and funny to boot. I’m still not planning on listening to their podcast, but I’m very glad I read their book. If you need a good laugh, this book is for you.


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The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I did not mean to read so many historical fiction novels this month, but every single one I read was excellent. The Stationery Shop was no different. Another Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club pick, this novel tells the story of Roya from the time she was a lovestruck teenager in 1950s Tehran to how she got to where she is in present day Boston. I loved learning about the history of the political turmoil surrounding Iran while reading a fictional account of characters during that time. While it’s a love story at its core, it also tackles topical issues such as undiagnosed mental illness, abortion, social class status, and death. That may sound like a downer, but it was beautifully written and didn’t drag at all. It was a great book to round out my month of reading.


Books I DNF’d this month:

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory – I love Jasmine Guillory as a person, but I’ve come to realize I’m not a fan of her subpar writing.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal – I could not stand the audio narrator’s voice on this one. I might pick it up in paper or digital format in the future.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo – I was so excited to pick this one up, but sadly could not get into it. Maybe it will capture my interest at a later time.


What were some of your favorite books you read this month? Let me know in the comments!

January 2020 Reads

 

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